Adam Johnson ran into court today where he is expected to be jailed for engaging in sexual activity with a besotted 15-year-old fan.
Johnson has been warned he faces a “substantial prison sentence” after he was found guilty of one offence of sexual activity with a child by a jury earlier this month.
The 28-year-old ran into the entrance of Bradford Crown Court as a line of police officers guarded the front as reporters and photographers waited outside.
Earlier his sister said she would not be in court because “I just don’t want him to see the pain in my eyes”.
She said Johnson’s former partner and the mother of his one-year-old daughter, Stacey Flounders, will also not be at the hearing.
In a Facebook post, Ms Johnson said: “Today is the sentencing for my brother, the worst day of my life.
“I just wanted to let all of the supporters know that I will not be attending Bradford Crown Court, the reason for this is Adam has always been my hero, my brother and my best friend, I just don’t want him to see the pain in my eyes!
“Instead I will be at home with my little boy, Adam’s number 1 fan, Adam’s daughter and the mother of his child Stacey.
“I remain proud of my big brother and I am 100% behind him and I always will be.”
— Heart NE News (@HeartNENews) March 24, 2016
The player had already admitted another count of the same offence and also grooming the girl, who idolised him.
Judge Jonathan Rose made the jail warning after granting Johnson bail, telling him: “You can say goodbye to your daughter. A prison sentence will mean you will not see her for some time.”
Judge Rose told the player – who earned £60,000 a week with Sunderland – his preliminary view was that the case falls into the category of a five-year prison sentence with a possible range of four to 10 years.
All the charges relate to an incident in Johnson’s Range Rover when he met up with the girl in County Durham on January 30 last year.
The jury heard how Johnson began exchanging hundreds of messages with the girl on social media at New Year 2015. He eventually agreed to meet her to sign football shirts.
But it was when they met for a second time that he asked for his “thank you kiss”.
Johnson admitted kissing the girl but denied any further sexual activity. The girl told the jury how the player digitally penetrated her after putting his hands down her pants and that she then gave him oral sex.
The jury cleared Johnson of the count relating to oral sex but found him guilty on a majority of 10-2 on the count relating to the digital penetration.
After he was found guilty, his teenage victim said she felt “so broken”. She said she had endured a year of being called a liar as Johnson continued to proclaim his innocence.
The player made his guilty pleas just before his trial began in February.
After the trial ended, a row erupted over just how much Sunderland AFC knew about what its player had done when it let him play on before finally sacking him earlier this year after his guilty pleas.
The club later said it was “so very sorry” for letting down its 15-year-old fan after chief executive Margaret Byrne resigned.
Ms Byrne admitted “a serious error of judgment” in advising the board that the star winger could carry on playing after he was initially suspended last March.
Johnson, a £10 million signing, helped the Wearside team to narrowly avoid relegation from the Premier League last year.
The player – who was capped 12 times for England – has a one-year-old daughter with Ms Flounders, who supported him during the court case but who told the jury they were now just friends.
Johnson walked into court chewing gum and wearing a blue suit, white shirt and a blue tie.
He walked quickly into the dock, adjusting the top button on his shirt.
Members of his family sat on the front seat of the public gallery.
He sat in dock with one security guard.
Prosecutor Kate Blackwell QC said he had no previous convictions and prior to the current prosecution had been a “man of good character”.
Miss Blackwell told the court that there was a “significant disparity” in age between the defendant and the victim.
She said: “At the time of the commission of these offences, (the victim) was one month after her 15th birthday and the defendant was 27. He was all but twice her age, 13 years older. The Crown say it amounts to a significant disparity of ages between the two.”
She added: “The most apparent feature in the view of the Crown is the severe psychological harm that the defendant has caused to the victim.”
The court heard that the victim had suffered at school both in her schoolwork and with bullying because of Johnson’s actions
The victim had even been approached by a stranger who questioned her relationship with the footballer when she was out.
Miss Blackwell read part of the girl’s impact statement to the court, which said: “This whole experience has been overwhelming. Through the process I have had many hard times.”
It added that she had even “felt at risk” going out.
The statement said that because Johnson had protested his innocence she “felt very intimidated by it all and felt very lonely. I have entered many dark places over this 12-month period and at times wanted to just shut the whole world out”.
The statement went on to say that her school work had suffered “massively”. She had been unable to attend lessons because of the stress relating to the case and she was under-achieving.
It continued: “Even after Adam pleaded guilty to the two charges, I have still been the subject of bullying. I’m pleased with the third guilty verdict as it proves to people that I was not lying.
“What happened a year ago completely changed my life.”
She added that she hoped justice would now be done.
The teenager’s mother said in a statement that her family had “taken no satisfaction” in the impact the case had on Johnson’s family and stressed that at no time had they tried to seek any financial gain.
“My family and I take no satisfaction in the impact it has had on his family and football fans.”
She added that her daughter had been the victim of thousands of “slanderous” and “malicious” remarks and threats of violence on social media.
The mother said she had felt “powerless”.
“A mother’s instinct is to protect and support their children.”